Thursday, December 06, 2007

Love's Surfeit

Disclaimer – Fact or fiction? This is definitely where the lines blur. My first dig at what people have termed fiction. It's a bit lengthy. So beware. Go on. Taste the pot purée. And get depressed.

Marvin Brewster did not have any inclination to visit the India that had been dished out to him by means of Nat Geo and Discovery documentaries. He was a pure bred American, having no liking for either Indian spirituality or its extremism. But his pig headed boss was adamant. No one else was suitable for the job at hand. Marvin tried to swear by drinking binges and sex escapades. But the entire rigmarole proved to be in vain. He soon found himself packing his bags for an unasked and much undesired trip to the Indian heartland.

After a bone breaking journey in the economy class, his flight landed at IGI Airport. A darker than brown man stood waiting for him, placard held high. The New Nabobs, thought Marvin. The company had been generous with the lodgings. The room was lavish and he was thankful for that. He had no karmic desires to spend a minute more in the tropical sun than was absolutely necessary. But within two days of sweltering in the Delhi heat, the evenings started to become exceedingly restless. With utmost reluctance, he got himself a Delhi guide book. There were scores of places to visit. Mosques, forts, tombs, minarets – all abounded in copious quantities. But some paranormal force flipped the pages to an ancient mausoleum. It was Sunday the next day and Marvin made up his mind to visit the place.

Humayun’s Tomb, Marvin read on the brass plaque, had been built by Haji Begum in the memory of her beloved husband, the Mughal emperor Humayun. Now that he stood near the mausoleum of supposedly undying love; he felt suddenly weak, almost dehydrated of all vitality. He had spent his years dilly dallying with women of all sorts, always being careful enough to let them get too close. His sense of seclusion was almost on par with Pink’s Wall. He had mocked his lesser than mortal friends who had somehow managed to fall in love, never failing to chide them for their foolishness. “There is no such thing as love”, Marvin used to propound. “It’s all about compromises, adjustments and sacrifices”. The tomb had very subtly made him realize something to the contrary. We would always end being social, animals or not. He wondered if he would be stupid enough to build a monument in someone’s remembrance. More than that, he wondered if he could love someone like they talked about in the poems. Like he secretly wished he could. Little did he know that he was about to find that out.

Exhausted more by the exploration than the unrealized realization, he settled on one of the benches. It was time for some much delayed introspection. But before the bane of nostalgia could sink in and consume Marvin in his entirety, a remarkably lovely girl sat down beside him. She must be in her early twenties, thought the quintessential Marvin. She wore a light green cashmere pullover. A body hugging Levi’s jeans highlighted the contours. Blue sneakers completed the look. She was not beautiful in a gorgeous fashion. But one could not resist appreciating the simple beauty which she seemed to exude. And Marvin was only human. He succumbed to the charm.

He was the one who initiated a conversation. Her name was Akanksha Nair. She was a student of history at the Delhi University. She had come there to actually feel the place they had been reading about. Within a few minutes, Marvin found the preconceived notions, about nothing in general and everything in particular, melting into nothingness. It was bound to happen, more sooner than later. India was not just about tribals, vegetarians, and stray cows after all. It had a suave and sophisticated side to it, a facet which the Indians propagandized whenever an opportunity presented itself. Akanksha was living proof of that. Her upbringing had been liberal and she was the quintessential free spirit; Indian in essence, cosmopolitan in everything else. Marvin was almost reveling in his own stupidity as his superstitions about India were proved to be just that, one by one.

The unsaid minutes turned into hours and soon the strange twosome found themselves being shooed away by the watchman. Kal subah saat baje aana. As if by some unspoken agreement, Marvin and Akanksha found themselves sharing the same bench the next morning. Conversation was just a few whispers away. And so was love; or so it seemed. The topics fluctuated from conservative to erotic, traditional to exotic, chic to flamboyant; and from love to betrayal. Work was somehow forgotten. Books were bagged with the same nonchalance. A strange couple ended up being ogled by everyone in tow. But they seemed to exist in a parallel universe. The unasked and much undesired trip was extended by a week. Then another. A job was quit somewhere, presumably in search of something that is supposedly more important. Without each other’s consent, both of them fell deeply, passionately in love with each other. It was the love we love reading about. The way it is described by Shakespeare. The way it is always mingled with predicament and tragedy. The way it should always be, regardless of boundaries or conventions.

Whispers were shared. Walks were walked. Lives were opened up to enormous possibilities. Possibilities limited to the diminishing horizon.

As with any other kind of perfection, romance like this always comes to a pre mature end. It can not but be so. Marvin and Akanksha soon began to realize the same. They knew they had to part ways, sooner or later. It was best if the moment was not delayed by perceptible amounts. And so they didn’t. Romeo and Juliet might not have been that approving of their decision. But it was meant to be. Marvin flew back to America and took up his job again. Akanksha resumed her studies and went on to obtain a doctorate in history. Both of them married well, or so it seemed to everyone else. Life continued as it should have, albeit none of them could actually forget the other. Ever. Without realizing the same.

Whispers flew away by like nothings. Responsibilities were shouldered. Commitments met. None thought of disregarding the mundane lives fate had ordained for them. Quite aptly.

Akanksha was now the mother of an 18 year old son. She had unknowingly christened him Avin, a name which bore an uncanny resemblance to someone she knew long ago. She taught history at one of the prestigious colleges in the city. It was the weekend. Her husband was not in town. Not very unusual. She decided to pay a visit to the Humayun’s Tomb, a place she frequented often. It had nothing to do with a passionate affair she had shared with a certain someone so long ago. It reminded her of everything she had asked for in life; and got. Every time, the place seemed to throw up a nook which she hadn’t explored. A mural she hadn’t appreciated. An inscription she hadn’t romanticized. An engraving she had not felt with her own soft hands.

She paid for her ticket at the booth. The teller had come to recognize her. He smiled and she returned it with equal honesty. She had decided to explore the western wing of the tomb today. She climbed up the stairs and walked to the western wing in the sweltering heat. Beads of salty sweat clung to her beautiful face. Her sari sashayed in the soft breeze. She had only begun to realize the beauty of it; all over again, when she saw a lone figure sitting on the same bench she had Marvin had shared some twenty years ago. Even after all this time, there was no mistaking the silhouette. She knew it was him. She found herself jumping two steps at a time, running across the gardens to see him, just this once, lest she lost him again. This time it would have meant forever. She knew that. She knew that with uncanny certainty. And everything else paled in comparison.

Akanksha found Marvin sitting there, lost in deep thought. He saw her at the same instant. Both were left speechless for a few minutes. He simply sat there. She simply stood. What twist of fate had ordained such destiny? What cruel sacrifice awaited them round the corner? What painful walk down the memory lane? Eventually, both of them mustered enough courage to sit next to each other. Their bodies fearing proximity, lest it wouldn’t last. They shared their stories. Their love. Their lives. And then they shared those memories, secretly cherished and vehemently guarded. Trips to the bazaars. Visits to the museums. The conversations which now seemed lost amongst a thousand whispers. Tears rolled down freely. Inhibitions were shed with equal disregard. He kissed her with passion, pure and unbridled. She kissed him back. None cared what the world thought or saw. For a moment that seemed to stretch beyond eternity, two souls were lost in pain. Two hearts were bound with joy. Two bodies were entwined in passion, subtle and consuming, all at the same time.

Then just like it had been a moment ago, time rolled the dice once again. It was time to part ways at the cross roads. They got up. She draped a shawl around her shoulders. It was beginning to get cold in the evenings. He draped his arms around her, providing more warmth then anything else could. They walked the walk back, slowly measuring their steps. It seemed as if they were trying to close their eyes and then willing the world to do the same. Near the gates, he held her close to himself one last time. “If not in this one then in the next”, he whispered into her ears. She looked at him through tear streaked eyes and nodded meekly. Then she shook the memories clinging to her still lovely hair and walked through the gates, never looking back. A full minute passed before Marvin moved. Then he trudged back through the revolving bars, never to return.

Behind the curtains, away from the glamorous limelight, two stupid souls talked about it all. They thought their words. They lived their lives. They mourned their sorrow. All in a few fleeting minutes. One put his shoes back on. The other draped a shawl around the other’s small shoulders. They too walked back the walk. They too promised to relive the lives which destiny had so unabashedly exposed to them. They too parted their ways, never turning back.


  1. Arresting story. You actually won this round Marvin (I don't believe how I let you but the imaginative narrative outdid the poem). The last paragraph is of course my favourite.

    Only one problem: Akanksha? Dunno why all guys are fascinated with this name :|

  2. Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting before you the indomitable Romantic, the one and only Sid Lal !

    But seriously...the story was quite interesting...but again, it gives the feeling of too much storyline being packed in to too little space...

    A good idea nevertheless...

  3. stunning.

    had no idea the tomb made such an impression :).

  4. @aunty

    The story has got to be interesting. After all, who wrote it eh?

    Akanksha has something to do a certain someone. ermm ermm

    And I am actually surprised you accepted defeat. Sign of times to come.


    Romantic. Naahh
    Impatient Thinker. Aha...

    I could have written more. But padhne mein utni hi takleef hoti sabko :|


    Where have you been all this time?
    This is about the visit to the tomb last time I visited Delhi.

    I went again. This time a lot seemed to be happening. Then a promise had to be kept.

  5. bhugg..... all dat sassy nd sappy romanticism packed into da stry... budhau dis aint ur cup of tea.... the stryline all too familiar... thngs a bit too unrealistic....

  6. See the story is really nice( rather say nicely translated.. :P)..But some doubts --
    1) Were sneakers in fashion in early 80's too?
    2) As stats say that until 1992 the jeans market in India was mainly dominated by unbranded jeans and minor Indian brands. I wonder was Akanksha that farsighted. Acc to you 'A body hugging Levi’s jeans highlighted the contours '...description of a woman in 80's in in India ..with the term 'simple beauty' ..seems ironical
    3) Also you mentioned nothing about the Marvin ..what did he do these years..did he get married.. :P ..or was he there 20 years at Humayun tomb waiting for her?
    4) Its not a doubt but I cant hold myself appreciating the memory of teller.
    5) In last para .. one gender disclosed ..('One put his shoes back on')..The other one's is knowingly or un-knowingly hidden('The other draped a shawl around the other’s small shoulders')..

    And yes Akanksha ...what a good name...

    Good work sid ..but hope that next time you do not repeat these mistakes.. :)

    P.S Agar chillaye is comment pe baja doonga tumhe..bahut mehnat se likha hai...

  7. Shit happens when you are old......though it may be good.

    God bless the old.

  8. Heh heh....You shall never improve shall you?

    One - Nopes. I don't think the sneakers were in fashion. But there's no harm in believing that AN somehow got hold of a pair. Now is there?

    Two - Levi's existed before 1992. So same goes for the pair of jeans eh?

    Three - Marvin's fate is left to the reader's imagination. An element of suspense perhaps? I said he went back. So he was definitely not waiting at the tomb :|

    Five - None of your business.

    With your generous blessings sir, I hope I will never repeat the mistakes. What will I do with your divine light and guidance?

    Very Important - I lack the imagination you possess O mighty one. It obviously showed :(

  9. wah saru ! kya tatti comment tha ! mazaa aa gaya !

  10. The story had to be interesting. And we both know it has nothing to do with your writing :P

    I am stubborn, not pig headed. I am a gracious runner up.

  11. good one
    bt too common a story line attachd with two ppl who love each other...
    presentation is wat impressed me more than nethng else...
    handling gives a "new" freshness....
    good job....
    bt none frm ur school frends wud hav wondered u cud write such things...
    tyms r changing real fast or dude love is in the air?u gotto ans this beta...

  12. great work sid!

    I was almost sure that am not going to comment coz you never comment on my blog :x but I couldn't resist.

    @saru - You took cherry from the cake
    but the cake that kaka served doesn't need's just yummmy